This is worse than LA!

I found myself saying that after we left Lady Liberty to grab dinner in NYC. We figured pizza at Grimaldi’s, right by the Brooklyn Bridge, would be the perfect way to end our visit. To do that, however, required us to travel from the Liberty State Park in Jersey to the Holland Tunnel, wind our way across the heart of the New York City, then cross the Brooklyn Bridge. After about an hour, we got as far as the on ramp to the Holland Tunnel.

By then, it was past 8, and we were nowhere near food. When we saw an opportunity to get out of the mess. We took a left and, with the use of our sometimes-spotty GPS in our phone, we managed to get to Harlem by 9:30.

We found a well-reviewed pizza place on Yelp, found parking, then walked to the pizza place. Now, Harlem seems like a very friendly community. There were people hanging out by their front steps, chatting. There were families playing basketball at the park across the street. We drove through parts that seemed gritty, where the streets weren’t as well-maintained, and there were more vagrants with alcohol problems. But, where this pizza place was located, the vibe was vibrant, communal, friendly. It dawned on me later that Harlem is where Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant is located. Eating there would have made it all come full circle: attending his shrimp and grits demo, shaking his hand, getting his autograph, and then eating at his restaurant.

The pizza place was the best alternative, though. The pizza was awesome. As it should be, I guess. After all, Harlem is not that far away.

 

 

I had spaghetti and meatballs. Because having a cheese pizza for dinner would just make the night even worse. It was good, I just wish there was more sauce. Too thick. I like my meatballs to swim in sauce! Ok, not that much, but you catch my drift.

 

After dinner, off to the freeway again! By the way, I’m not sure what East Coast people call freeways out here. Is it expressways? Anyway, we found ourselves wishing we were “home” already. You get sick of long drives after a while. I used to think an hour’s drive to Camarillo was a pain in the ass and barely worth it. Now, we consider a 4-hour drive to Vegas a piece of cake. It’s true what the phrase says, “it could be worse.” Instead of complaining that it’s taking you forever to get to Santa Monica, think of the fact you are not driving across Texas. That takes forever and a day.

At some point, it’s usually common sense to stop driving when you are yawning every other minute on the road. So, we found a Motel 6 somewhere in Connecticut and called it a day. It must have been past midnight.

Our last hotel/motel stop before Massachusetts!

“But, I’m a dork and wanted my SCOTUS swag!”

RAL was very kind to lend us his house for the night. In order to get there, though, we had to provide our California DLs and wait while they ran our numbers in the military system. We are definitely in the system now. No easy way to get off the grid now!

This morning, we woke up to traffic. If it wasn’t for all the lush greenery on the side of the road, I could have sworn we were back in L.A. SO MUCH TRAFFIC to get to DC. So, by the time we got to the city, it was lunch time. So, we had to eat where Bill Cosby eats for free: Ben’s Chili Bowl. The chili is a no-beans chili seasoned with a secret mix of Trinidad spices. But, I thought the chili was meh on its own. It really shines when paired with their half-smoke (a sausage, served like a hot dog). We ordered three chili half-smokes with everything on it (as in, with mustard and onions). I also ordered chili fries so I could isolate the chili by itself.

It was good, but like all things unhealthy, you feel disgusting after. It might be psychological, but I swear I still smell like chili and onions. By our friend, Tom’s, recommendation, we ordered a vanilla milkshake with the food. That was a good idea because the chili packed some heat in it. Overall, good place to grab a quick lunch with, and I see why Mr. Jell-O Puddin’ likes it, but I won’t personally be craving it. Then again, we’ve had an abundance of all-meat-and-no-veggies for the past week and a half.

Next, to the Hill! Actually, we drove to the Union Station and parked our car indoors, for once. The heat in the city was unbearable! And, it wasn’t even 100 degrees outside! Montego tolerated it quite well. I felt like a True Blood vampire ready to explode into disgustingly bloddy pieces. The Union Station was a short walk to Capitol Hill. I languidly trotted next to Robin, jumping from one shady tree to the next. Once we arrived there, we encountered news reporters camped along one shady corner of the grass area. We took a couple of shots from the safety of some trees.

After a few minutes, we decided to walk over to the Supreme Court building. At that point, any protesters that picketed that morning were gone. What was left were more reporters camped along the sidewalk doing something, I dunno what. There weren’t any talking heads that looked familiar to us, so we went inside. The information booth said there was a Courtroom Lecture in 20 minutes, so we walked up and took some shots in front of the door of the actual courtroom, then fell in line behind people waiting to attend the lecture. The 2nd floor, where the courtroom was located, was lined with busts of past Chief Justices who have served. It was kind of weird to see. It was almost like walking down the Stations of the Cross art depictions you see in Catholic churches.

The lecture itself broadly discussed the flow of the Supreme Court: what happens during oral arguments, what happens when decisions are read, and how long it takes for Justices to announce their decisions. The lecturer also touched on the historic decision made today, Affordable Healthcare Act, and why people knew the announcement was going to be made today (today was their last day to announce decisions for the October-to-October term). At this point, I was just dorkifying over the whole thing and nodding my head to everything she said, like I was greeting a long assembly line of Japanese people. (Sorry if that was offensive.) The lecturer did say that we could obtain a free copy of decisions announced today downstairs. So, after the lecture, off we went! I felt like an uber Trekkie in a Star Trek convention.

The decision today was, obviously, so popular that they ran out of copies of Justice Robert’s majority opinion. But, luckily, while we loitered around, Robin spotted a copy room dude who was wheeling one Xerox box towards the Public Information Office (where they provide free copies of that day’s opinions). So, we bee-lined behind him and got ourselves a copy of the Healthcare Act opinion. Yay!

Next, we walked back to Capitol Hill, where we saw a crowd gathered around the West Entrance/Exit of the building. We got there just in time as Democratic House of Representatives started walking down the stairs. People got real excited (half of the people there were interns, by the way) when House Speaker Pelosi, in her cream-colored pantsuit, walked out with a couple of her aides. Since I’m small, I wiggled my way to the front of the crowd and was ready to snap a picture of her with my phone–then my phone slipped out of my hand and missed my shot. Of course. Because, only I would get a primo view and then not capture it for proof.

We later found out that most of the Democrats had walked out when the Republic members of the House of Representatives were voting on whether to censure (hold in contempt) Eric Holder for his gun-running probe. We had fortuitously witnessed Pelosi (and a bunch of Democrats) walk-out as a show of her refusal to vote on the issue.

As soon as she reached the sidewalk, she was swarmed by reporters. So, we watched the whole theatrics play out from the comforts of a shady spot by the trees. Once we were over it, we decided to seek out the Natural History Museum. It was a long walk, and I was seriously lagging behind Montego at this point. My 1L of water was warm, so it was no longer providing temporary respite from the heat. We came across a large water fountain by the National Art Gallery, so we stopped for an iced lemonade break under a bench with some shade. There were a lot of people there wading in the fountain, and the guards didn’t care that they were wading (there were signs all around the area saying wading was prohibited). We caught these girl scouts who decided to screw the sign and dip their little feet into what I assume was cool water. One of them was clearly an over-achiever:

After, I felt like I was going to live again, we prodded on to the Natural History Museum. Once on its steps, we saw a sign for “TitanoBoa,” purportedly the largest snake ever found in the world. Obviously, I had to see it. I mean, how else am I ever going to get over snakes, right? It turns out, the exhibit was a showcase of vertebras of the snake, found in Colombia. The pièce de résistance was a life-like reconstruction of what the boa constrictor would have looked like when it was alive. It was massive. I froze in fear, then I had to keep saying out loud that it was fake. Why did they have recreate the gross, scaly, skin of the snake too? Couldn’t they just make some clay reconstruction? Geez! But, Montego thought I did well, all things considered. We stood there for a good minute, minute and a half before walking away, and I didn’t hyperventilate or pass out. Yeah! One small step for TheRose-kind!

The Natural History Museum ended being our last stop. At that point, we had walked so much in sweltering heat, that we said “fuck it” to the rest of the city. We decided to head out. There was still traffic, but it was starting to ease up. Thank goodness!

We decided to stop in Baltimore, MD for a late dinner. We found this mom and pop crab shack place via Yelp. They are apparently known for their steamed crabs and shrimp. Since Maryland is known for their crabs, Montego ordered two of ’em. I contented myself with some shrimp. I don’t know why I don’t have an intolerance for shrimp, whereas, its other shelled counterparts give me near-death. Anyway, I felt bad for Montego because extracting morsels of those crabs took forever. The meat was cold by the time he got any substantial portion out. Overall, we would have enjoyed it more if the food had been peeled and de-shelled already. Too much damn work for such little reward. It was affordable, though, so we didn’t mind. I thought the seasoning on the shrimp was a little too salty, but Montego loved what little meat he got out of it. He said the crabmeat was sweet. I ordered a side of curly fries to supplant for the absence of abundance of meat. We loved the vibe, though. We got in just as they were about to close, they let us in anyway. They are local, family-owned, and welcoming. We recommend it–just, next time, order more crabs.

Overall, I call today a day of great timing.

“Huge Ass Beers”

Went to Bourbon Street after we unloaded all our luggage in our room. We found a deal on Hotwire that listed a “4-star hotel” for less then $100. Since most of the budget hotels in the area were booked, we’re like, “Sure, why not?” The view was fantastic, and we got a king bed out of it. The bed was better than our last bed. No backaches in the morning!

Onto Bourbon Street. It was Saturday night. It’s the best time to get a feel and find out all the hype–and let me tell you, it definitely was crazy. Wow, I can’t imagine surviving here during Mardi Gras. I will get trampled, or strangled by falling beads. Death by beads. The husband was all about the mixed drink called Hurricane. But, we couldn’t find a bar that seemed like a good spot for a Hurricane. Instead, we went to a bar where they were advertising a drink called Grenades. I forgot what the slogan was, but it was something along the lines of, “These will fuck you up.” [Excuse the French.]

We bought one for each of us. Then, kept walking down the busy street, sipping our neon green concoction. I was overwhelmed by the scene. Really. It’s like going to the Gaslamp District in San Diego, times 100. There was even a couple of things there where I was like, “THAT’S LEGAL?!” Anyway, the husband sipped his drink faster than I did, so he felt the alcohol before I did. It wasn’t a good feeling. It was not a buzz, it was a “oh, I feel sick.” Bourbon Street was also smelly. It smelled of puke and horse poop, among other things. So, that didn’t help. On our way back to our hotel, we saw the horses.

The next morning, the “grenade” effect was launched in our hotel room. Specifically, in the bathroom. Need I say more?

So, a warning to anybody who goes to Bourbon Street: don’t get the grenades, it’s not the grenade you’re looking for.

 

Held It In the AM, Ate It In the PM

Went on a Louisiana swamp tour. Our Cajun tour guide said if we wanted to try alligator, we should go to Huck Finn’s Cafe in New Orleans, and order their Alligator Sauce Piquante dish. So, I made a mental note of that while I caressed his pet baby alligator.

Later, after the tour, I convinced Montego to try alligator. So, off we go to Huck Finn’s. Montego ordered a shrimp po’ boy, he was on a shrimp fix. I scanned their menu, searching for one keyword: alligator. Surprisingly, there were several alligator offerings on the menu. My indecision (and, admittedly, slight fear) drove me to order the Gator Platter: alligator served as a sausage, in sauce piquante, and blackened. If I didn’t like one preparation, then I at least had others to fill me. I ignored the odds that I might not like all three preparations. I ended up wishing I had just listened to our Cajun tour guide and ordered the Alligator Sauce Piquante. The blackened preparation was chewy. And, eating sausage can only stay so appetizing. So, what I did was dump all the blackened pieces into the small bowl of sauce piquante to make it more enjoyable. People are right, alligator does taste like chicken. Based on the blackened preparation, alligator has the meat consistency of pork and flavor of chicken. Montego helped me finish the sausage. I couldn’t finish all that. The sausage was like eating a turkey sausage. No flavor revelations. The alligator was satisfying, but I don’t see myself craving after it.

I also checked in on Foursquare, so we scored free beignets and had them boxed up. We passed by a homeless dude on the way to the car, so Montego gave him our beignets.

Honey Island Gator Platter

Shrimp Po’ Boy

 

Late Morning

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Had a late breakfast at a Route 66 Diner called Mr. D’z. The wait staff actually looked you in the eye. It was new to me! Took this picture to secretly capture the local people and local flavor, if you will. The guy on the right had an interesting facial hair style. This place touts their homemade root beer. Oprah supposedly loves it, based on the framed picture of her holding a mug of root beer.

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Movers Arrive

The movers are here!

Two guys with a Budget rental truck. The moving company we signed with bragged about not subcontracting their jobs, so they refused to match lower quotes other companies gave us. Yet, somehow, here are these two guys who were subcontracted out by the company. I hope this is the only lie we’ll encounter.

The movers are nice guys: one is serious, the other one likes to chat. I do believe the hardest part of moving out is over. Now, we wait for the movers to load our boxes, wrap furniture in blankets, then watch them go. I am a little nervous about the final cost that will hit us once the actual inventory is finalized. It’s been a challenge trying to get people on Craigslist to buy our stuff, so we’ve had to deviate from the original quote. It seems there are more sellers than buyers, just like the housing market.

Well, counting down till Kono is loaded onto a plane!

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